With the Kimberley Dynamiters looking for a stranglehold on their best-of-seven Eddie Mountain Division final with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, 20-year-old veteran Franco Colapaolo almost didn’t play.
In fact, he was prepared to be a healthy scratch after not taking the warmup ahead of Game 3 at the Johnny Bucyk Arena in Creston.
To this point in the post-season, that might not be a surprise to most Dynamiters fans, with Colapaolo only having skated in three games prior to Tuesday, all of which came during the first round against the Fernie Ghostriders.
But sometimes fate has different plans, everything happens for a reason.
After forward Keenan Haase took warmups and was unable to fight through a nagging injury, Colapaolo was a late addition to the lineup Tuesday night and the move paid off in spades as the Calgary native posted a goal and an assist to boost the Dynamiters to a 5-2 victory and 3-0 series lead over the Thunder Cats.
“It’s a great lesson for people. [Colapaolo is] one of those kids, when you told him he wasn’t going to play, you knew you were talking to a man,” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, over the phone from Creston following Tuesday’s win. “He looked you in the eye, went to the gym and did his workouts. He stayed positive and skated a couple times with some old-timers because we didn’t have ice. He did everything well.
“He didn’t even get to warm up [Tuesday]… He sat in the dressing room with his gear on and when he got the chance, he came through for us. It’s a credit to his character, how he handled the whole thing.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Colapaolo tallied the insurance marker, while Brodie Buhler, Jared Marchi and Austyn Moser provided the rest of the offense, helping the Dynamiters to a five-goal offensive outburst in a series that had only seen six total goals scored between both clubs through Games 1 and 2.
Carson Cartwright and Alec Wilkinson responded for the Thunder Cats, but not until midway through the third period as the Nitros sat with a comfortable 5-0 lead.
Between the pipes, Dynamiters goaltender Tyson Brouwer made 29 saves for his seventh victory of the post-season, while Thunder Cats netminder Brock Lefebvre was victimized five times on 25 shots.
With the win, the Dynamiters have an opportunity to sweep the Eddie Mountain Division final Wednesday night (7:30 p.m.) as Game 4 is scheduled to go at the Johnny Bucyk Arena in Creston.
Outside of Colapaolo’s fateful evening, the Dynamiters were powered by veteran Kimberley product Marchi, who registered two goals.
“This was his best game of the series, for sure,” Bancks said of the 20-year-old Marchi. “He logs pretty big minutes. He did a great job and it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
Buhler opened the scoring in the first period before Marchi scored consecutively in the second period to extend the visitors’ lead to 3-0. Colapaolo added his first goal of the post-season with 6:45 remaining in the second period.
Moser rounded out the Nitros scoring only 1:10 into the third period, and that was more than enough to take care of business.
Taking a 3-0 series lead is familiar territory for the Dynamiters. In the division semifinal against the Ghostriders, the Nitros also vaulted ahead 3-0 before dropping a Game 4 opportunity to sweep.
“Fernie taught us a great lesson,” Bancks said. “We went into that fourth game thinking they’re going to lay down and die. I can promise you, there’s somebody in Fernie’s dressing room that wasn’t going to allow that to happen and got the boys going.
“I’m fairly certain Creston will be the same way [Wednesday] night. It will be the toughest game of the series, for sure.”
Tuesday, March 8
Kimberley Dynamiters 5 at Creston Valley Thunder Cats 2
First Period1. KIM – B. Buhler, (Ty. Van Steinburg, Tr. Van Steinburg), 4:41
Second Period2. KIM – J. Marchi, (J. Busch), 0:163. KIM – J. Marchi, (unassisted), 6:034. KIM – F. Colapaolo, (unassisted), 13:15
Third Period5. KIM – A. Moser, (F. Colapaolo, T. Doell), 1:106. CVT – C. Cartwright, (A. Wilkinson, T. Cankovic), 9:477. CVT – A. Wilkinson, (T. Cankovic, C. Cartwright), 11:06
Shots 1 2 3 TKimberley Dynamiters 6 13 6 25Creston Valley Thunder Cats 11 5 15 31
Goaltenders Saves Mins SV%KIM – Tyson Brouwer 29/31 60:00 0.935CVT – Brock Lefebvre 20/25 57:55 0.800
Power plays: KIM – 0/3 (00.0%); CVT – 0/3 (00.0%)Attendance: 416
KIJHL Eddie Mountain Division FinalCreston Valley Thunder Cats (2) vs. Kimberley Dynamiters (1)DYNAMITERS LEAD SERIES 3-0Game 1 – Thunder Cats 1 at Dynamiters 2 (2OT)Game 2 – Thunder Cats 1 at Dynamiters 2 (OT)Game 3 – Dynamiters 5 at Thunder Cats 2Game 4 – March 9 at Johnny Bucyk Arena (Creston, 7:30)*Game 5 – March 11 at Kimberley Civic Centre (7 p.m.)*Game 6 – March 12 at Johnny Bucyk Arena (Creston, 7:30)*Game 7 – March 13 at Kimberley Civic Centre (7 p.m.)
All times listed are Mountain Time * = if necessary